Can a PC have multiple drives?

Quick Answer

Yes, a PC can definitely have multiple drives installed. This allows you to have more storage space and keep different types of data separated. Common examples of multiple drives in a PC include:

  • A solid state system drive for the operating system and programs
  • A traditional hard disk drive for user files and documents
  • An additional hard drive for media files or backups
  • A removable drive like a USB flash drive or external hard drive

With the right hardware connections like SATA ports on the motherboard and power supply, there is no limit to the number of drives a typical PC could have installed. The drives just need to be mounted and connected properly.

Adding Extra Drives for More Storage

One of the most common reasons to add extra drives to a PC is simply to expand the available storage space. For example:

  • The primary system drive may be a 256GB SSD, which is enough for the operating system and software but fills up quick with documents and files.
  • Adding a 1TB or 2TB traditional spinning hard drive gives you tons more room for everything else.
  • Large media files like photos, videos, and games can quickly fill up drives, so adding one or more large high capacity drives gives you more flexibility.

If you find your main system drive is full, an easy fix is to add a new data drive that you can move files to and free up the system drive for programs.

Choosing the Right Drive Types

When adding extra drives for storage capacity, you can choose between solid state drives (SSDs) or traditional hard disk drives (HDDs):

  • SSDs: More expensive per GB, but much faster performance, silent with no moving parts, and more reliable with less risk of failure.
  • HDDs: Much cheaper per GB, decent performance, audible clicks and spin sounds, higher risk of mechanical failure over time.

For frequently accessed programs and files, SSDs are worth the premium. But for pure storage of media files, archives, backups, etc, HDDs offer huge capacity for low cost.

Setting Up Drive Mounting

With the physical connections made, some configuration will be required for the PC to recognize and be able to access the extra drives:

  • In Windows, the drive should show up in Disk Management where it can be formatted and assigned a drive letter.
  • On Linux, the drive will need to be mounted at a mount point to be accessible via the file system.

This process is fairly straightforward and will allow full access to the newly added storage capacity.

Separating System and Data

Another reason to use multiple drives relates to performance and organization. Keeping the operating system separate from your data allows optimizing each component.

Benefits of a Dedicated System Drive

Using a dedicated drive like an SSD just for the operating system provides a few advantages:

  • Faster boot times – no need to dig through piles of data to load the OS.
  • Cleaner and snappier system performance without other disk activity slowing things down.
  • Easy operating system upgrades and reinstalls without worrying about data loss.
  • Improved security and reliability for the critical system files.

For these reasons, having a dedicated system drive as the primary boot volume is recommended.

Keeping Data and Media Separate

Similarly, storing your personal files on a separate data drive keeps things logically organized:

  • Documents stay accessible even during OS upgrades or drive failures.
  • You can easily reformat the system drive without losing media content.
  • Large downloads or storage like videos won’t clog up the system disk.
  • Makes regular backups easy since your data lives in one place.

Separation of system and data is considered a best practice for stability and security.

Optimizing Drive Performance

Carefully configuring multiple drives can also help optimize overall system performance:

Balancing Disk Workloads

The drives with the OS and programs will be accessed constantly for booting and launching apps. By keeping data separate, the storage load is balanced across drives.

Using SSDs for Speed

SSDs dramatically speed up boot times and application launch times compared to HDDs. Using an SSD for the system drive and HDDs for data is a popular setup.

Enabling Disk Caching

A small SSD can act as cache for frequently accessed data on a larger slower HDD. Intel optane memory and some SSDs support this for better perceived performance.

Managing Drive Optimizations

On Windows, tools like Disk Defragmenter can further optimize the layout and retrieval of data across drives.

Tuning the File System

On Linux, the file system type like Ext4 versus Btrfs can be tuned for SSD versus HDD to optimize performance based on the drive type.

Types of Drives to Use

There are many types of drives that could be added to a PC, depending on the interfaces available and intended use case:

Internal Disk Drives

Traditional HDDs and modern SDDs in standard 3.5″ and 2.5″ sizes can be mounted internally for additional storage. They connect via SATA ports on the motherboard.

External USB Drives

External drives connect over USB and may use traditional spinning hard drives or SSDs. Enclosures allow easy plug and play upgrades.

Flash Memory and SSD Cards

Small SSDs in M.2, U.2 or PCIe card form factors can provide ultra fast data storage and are popular for high-speed tasks.

Optical Disk Drives

CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray drives can provide additional media reading and writing capabilities.

Specialized Media Drives

Other types of removable media drives like tape backup units can be useful for archiving and large data storage.

Drive Interface and Connections

The way the additional drives connect to the PC depends on the interface ports available:


The most common interface for internal drives is the SATA interface, supported on most motherboards with multiple SATA ports.


USB ports allow easy connection of external hard drives, SSDs, flash drives, and optical drives. USB 3.0 and later provide fast speeds.


For maximum speed, M.2 and some SSD cards can connect via PCI Express lanes direct to the CPU and system.


A Thunderbolt interface allows daisy chaining of high performance external drives and devices.

Mix and Match as Needed

A typical PC build might use SATA ports for internal data drives, USB 3 for external storage, and M.2 PCIe for the system drive to balance performance, capacity, and convenience.

Setting up RAID Arrays

With multiple drives available, a technology called RAID can combine them together for performance and redundancy:

What is RAID?

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. It allows grouping drives to act as a single logical volume.


RAID 0 “stripes” data across multiple disks for increased performance by spreading reads and writes across drives.


RAID 1 “mirrors” drives for full redundancy, with data copied to all disks automatically. If one fails, no data is lost.

Other RAID Levels

More advanced RAID modes like 5, 6, and 10 provide combinations of performance and redundancy across larger arrays.

Hardware and Software RAID

Dedicated RAID controller hardware provides the best features and performance. But software RAID using Windows or Linux is a free option.

OS and Backup Considerations

The operating system and backup software will determine how seamlessly multiple drives can be utilized:

Spanning Across Drives

Windows and Linux can gracefully handle running out of space by transparently spanning large files across multiple mounted volumes.

Pooling Drives into One

Third party tools like DrivePool on Windows can combine multiple disks into one big “pool” volume to simplify storage.

Backing up to Other Drives

Having secondary drives enables simple backups via file copy or third party backup tools for drive images and file synchronization.

Booting from Any Drive

Using UEFI and modern BIOS, boot priority can be set to any internal SATA or PCIe drive for flexibility.

Example Drive Configurations

Some examples of multi-drive setups in real world PCs:

Balanced Gaming PC

Drive Type Drive Size Use Case
SATA SSD 256GB Primary boot drive with Windows installed. Holds a few games and applications.
HDD 2TB Large capacity drive for storing game library, media files, documents, etc.
External USB HDD 4TB Backup destination and storage for completed projects.

Maxed Out Workstation

Drive Type Drive Size Use Case
NVMe SSD 500GB M.2 PCIe system drive with OS and programs. Provides top speed for booting and loading.
SATA SSD 1TB Additional SATA SSD for scratch disk space and project files.
SATA HDD (RAID 0) 4 x 4TB Striped RAID array acts as a 16TB volume for huge media files and archives.
External Thunderbolt RAID 36TB Large external drive array for offsite projects and backups.

As you can see, with the right mix of ports and connectors, even very advanced PC builds can leverage many drives for different needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a limit to how many drives I can have?

There is no set limit, but practical considerations like physical drive bays, power supply capacity, and ports on the motherboard determine how many you can reasonably add. Large tower cases support more drives.

Do I need special hardware or cables?

SATA data cables and sufficient power cables from the power supply are needed. External drives usually include the cables. For maximum drive support, choose a motherboard with lots of SATA, USB, and PCIe ports.

How do I mount or access the extra drives?

In Windows, use Disk Management. On Linux, drives need to be mounted via the terminal or a tool like GNOME Disks. This assigns a mount point like /mnt/drive1 to access.

Can the BIOS or UEFI boot from any connected drive?

Yes, you can choose which internal or external drive to boot from via the boot priority order configurable in your system firmware settings.

Do I have to format new drives before using?

Yes, new internal or external drives will need to be formatted with NTFS, exFAT, or a Linux file system before files can be stored on them.


There are many great reasons to have multiple drives in your custom PC build. Extra storage, better organization, improved redundancy, and enhanced speed are just a few of the possibilities. With the right planning and configuration, additional drives can really unlock the full potential of your system.